Jeramey Jannene

Mayor Cavalier Johnson Pledges Four Points of MPS Involvement

Including helping select the next superintendent and city administrative support.

By - Jun 7th, 2024 02:20 pm
Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Comptroller Bill Christianson discuss MPS. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Comptroller Bill Christianson discuss MPS. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson is ready for the City of Milwaukee to come to the aid of Milwaukee Public Schools. And he wants to bring the community with him.

Johnson, in a press conference Friday morning, revealed four ways he would like the city to become involved with the school district. None of those, said Johnson, involve the city or mayor taking over the district. “That’s not my agenda,” said Johnson who stressed that he is focused on “prompt solutions.”

The announcement comes as the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is temporarily withholding a $16 million aid payment for failure to submit a “real plan” in a timely fashion regarding the district’s finances.

“I share the frustration and the disappointment that so many residents feel about the deep problems that are at play at Milwaukee Public Schools,” said Johnson. “Clearly MPS needs assistance and city government is here and ready to help.”

First, he would like to play a “direct” role in selecting the next superintendent. He would like to be able to interview or meet with finalists in order to have his “voice heard.” Johnson, who said he attempted to establish a greater relationship with outgoing superintendent Keith P. Posley earlier this year, said it was important that he have a voice in selecting the next superintendent if his office is to work to support them.

Second, in partnership with independently-elected comptroller Bill Christianson, the city is to provide supportive resources for financial services to MPS. The Comptroller, the city’s fiscal watchdog and auditor, already handles receipt and transference of property tax and state aid revenue for MPS in addition to issuing any debt. But that could be expanded to other services. Christianson said a conversation has already taken place with the MPS board and administration, but that more discussions are necessary over possible functions. Under state statute, the City Attorney serves as the district’s attorney and the city also manages the sale of its real estate. The Comptroller said his office may need more staffing based on what is requested.

Johnson said he’s already discussed the issues with Governor Tony Evers, State Superintendent Jill Underly and members of the MPS Board of School Directors. Johnson said he joins Evers and County Executive David Crowley in calling for financial and instructional audits of the district. Evers, in a press release, said the state would pay for the audits.

The third component of what Johnson is proposing is to use his bully pulpit to boost community engagement. That includes attempting to drive up “shamefully low” school board election turnout. “It doesn’t mean I have a problem with the school board, I am calling on people to get involved,” he said. He said he would be open to moving the elections from the lower turnout spring cycle to the fall as well as other changes.

The final aspect Johnson pledged to work on was to become a sustainable partner in improving “all schools.” Noting that approximately half of Milwaukee students attend voucher, charter or other private schools, Johnson said: “It’s my responsibility as mayor to look after all of the kids regardless of school type.” Johnson suggested as much in an inauguration speech many weeks before the MPS crisis was revealed.

The MPS board has two special meetings scheduled for next week. One, on June 12, to consider hiring a director of board governance. A second, on June 13, to consider adopting the budget and hiring an interim superintendent. Public testimony will not be taken at either meeting.

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Categories: Education, Politics

2 thoughts on “Mayor Cavalier Johnson Pledges Four Points of MPS Involvement”

  1. Joy Adams says:

    Why doesn’t DPI go after school systems immediately when there is a problem. Don’t wait months or years. This is DPI’s job to make school systems responsible.

  2. robertm60a3 says:

    One possible solution is performance pay for the Superintendent. A base of $80,000, any money the $80,000 based is awarded when (if) there are improvements in student outcomes.

    I can’t believe someone who resigned due to failure is receiving $180,000. The amount he is receiving for resigning would pay for two teachers. I also have a hard time understanding why he would take the $180,000, knowing that it is coming from the people of Milwaukee—some who don’t have the money to maintain their homes. The money could be used to pay for teachers, tutoring, books, etc….

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